I had to say bye to free mountain air and snow-capped peaks of Svaneti, as the adventure had to continue East. So reluctantly I hit the road. Hitching out was easier than I had thought and I was in Zugdidi in no time.
As I wandered through town, a police car stopped. This was the same town I got a lift from police before. Maybe the same guys saw me and radioed me in? Apparently the guy who picked me up had been looking around town. I jumped in to find two Czech girls sitting in the back. More lucky adventurers.
Again we were passed from car to car, until we reached Samtredia, where an old bus full of slowly old women stopped. We of course did the old “no money” routine, but they still told us to climb in. With a storm coming our way, we weren’t about to argue. Climbing over random boxes, and getting dirty looks from old women, we crammed into the back of this old thing…
We drove East, into the rain, while shitty Russian pop music, followed by shitty Russian crime dramas assaulted our ears and eyes.
We parted ways outside of Gori, as they were destined for the big city. A taxi driver invited me into his car as the rain picked up again, and I was able to contact Zura, who drove out at around 11pm to get me.
He took me to his home to meet his wife and two lovely dogs, who I befriended immediately. Of course I was stuffed with food, beer, and he even gave me his own bedroom. Georgian hospitality, man. He did everything for make sure I was not only comfortable, but that my stomach was as full as it could be.
Gori is Stalins hometown, making it the reason people go there, aside from the nearby caves. It was also invaded in 2008 during the South Ossetia conflict. Zuras’ own flat block was bombed and shelled, as the military hospital is almost next door. Yea, they targeted the hospital. He showed me videos of the various surrounding buildings burning, with one video even showing his friend dying… Outside, next to the playground, is a monument called “The Tree of Life,” which was constructed from Russian artillery shells used in the assault on Gori. Hard to comprehend all these things, coming from a more or less peaceful bastion like Canada.
Zura had me stay another day, wanting to show me more, and I suppose just getting to know a foreigner. I suppose the one strange and sad part about my trip in Gori is when he took me to thelcal zoo,situated in the middle of one of the city parks. Inside small cages were birds, monkeys, and even bears. Their faces looked worn and done-in. To Zura it was something cool to show to me. It was hard to smile…
The two Czechs had messaged me as well, inviting me to go to Armenia with them. After a little debate I had decided that generally, in these situations, you should follow these sorts of invitations. I mean, I was planning on going there anyways.
My sights had turned from the far North of Georgia to very much the opposite direction.
These changes, as I’m sure I have said before, are the fabric to this style of traveling. You don’t have to follow these random prompts, but from myself, they always lead to the kind of experiences you will remember for the rest of your life.
I was to team up with two little Czechs, and I believe I can say the experiences got stranger…